After two decades of disastrous events in her life, which began in her 40s, astrology sceptic Liz Jones turned to the cosmos, desperate for answers. Was her future written in the heavens all along? PHOTOGRAPHS: MATTHEW SHAVE
The years around the age of 42 are the time of most upheaval, according to astrologers. Tell me about it. Aged 42, I discovered my husband was cheating. At 43, I was sacked as a glossy magazine editor, a job I was born to do. A lifetime’s ambition snatched away in an instant. In 2007, a year short of 50, I got divorced and moved to rural Somerset, which, after the marriage, was Big Mistake Number Two. I was ostracised, betrayed, ripped off, and had to move… to North Yorkshire, where it turned out a stalker lived next door.
If you’d told me at the time that this was all down to the half orbit of chaos-maker Uranus (with a possible kicker from depression-inducing Neptune) then I’d probably have told you to get a grip.
People who are ruled by their horoscopes? Silly, aren’t they? Or are they? Because once I passed 42, the crises did just seem to keep on coming. Another sacking meant I lost my home and was made bankrupt. Bar two friends, everyone abandoned me. My lowest point was when my car was repossessed and I had no food or heating.
By the time my mid-50s came around, I had worked all my life, been absurdly generous and had nothing. To add to the list of misfortunes, my house was shot at (I found myself on the BBC TV news) and one of my horses died. I woke one morning, went down to the stables, and Maggie, a beautiful thoroughbred I hadn’t had long, was on her back, still warm, but dead. There were terrible floods and I stupidly drove my BMW through water: it had to be written off. There was an awful dispute with my sister, who turned another sister and all the neighbours against me.
Nothing went right: oil was stolen from an outside tank. A hay crop failed. All my dreams of a rural idyll were in tatters.
The cause of this fear and heartache – apparently – was far above my head in the form of Saturn, which was busy completing its second orbit around my life: an event often feared by the cosmically conscious. On reflection, I’d say they may well have a point.
Despite my protestations, I am possessed of a long-term interest in astrology and anything mythical. I’ve always read predictions for my star sign, which is Virgo. Even as a child, I’d consume my stars in Jackie and 19 feverishly. I’d learn I’m a typical Virgo: super fastidious. Reserved. Loyal. I believed my sign to be the best.
As I got older, I’d read that week’s horoscope of whichever man I was either after or was dating. I always knew a relationship was finally over when I no longer bothered to look up what his week would bring. Eventually I’d forget his star sign altogether: I’ve just had to look up that my ex-husband is a Capricorn (lacking in emotion: spot on), ex-fiancé a Cancer (way too sensitive: also correct).
Going back to Saturn for a moment – if I accept that its second orbit contributed to my husband cheating, my friends abandoning me and all the sheer bad luck I experienced at the time then I must also accept that it was causing havoc during its first return in my 20s.
Although I had had turmoil when younger, I had never clutched at straws in the way I did in my 40s and older. I was anorexic from the age of 11, but only spoke about it– to my GP– in my early 20s, when it was so extreme I thought I was going blind. My father died in 1986, when I was in my 30s, but I coped: it was a normal part of life – something awful, but to be expected.
A nephew died very young, my brother also way too young. But again, I got through it, as I didn’t feel alone: the family stuck together, and others had sympathy.
When my life fell apart in my 40s, and for the next 20 years, there was no help from anyone, no sympathy. As a 40-something single, child-free woman there was a consensus that I had brought my troubles on myself. Everyone around me seemed to think I didn’t need or deserve a nice house, a nice life.
The midlife upheaval was definitely the worst I’ve ever experienced. It isn’t just because you no longer have parents as a safety net. Or that there are no longer decades ahead of you, meaning you can pick yourself up and start again. When you’re young you believe, quite rightly, that a crisis won’t define your life.
It’s more than that. Along with a midlife crisis is the guilt-making, shameful feeling that you should have arrived at your destination and be happy. You are no longer striving. As a middle-aged woman, you should no longer be stupid enough to fall for the wrong man, gullible enough to trust family, solicitors, builders, fair-weather friends. Solid enough in your career not to make bad choices. Financially and emotionally secure.
Realising that time was running out, I have, I’ll admit, clutched at various alternative-therapy straws– rubber rings I hoped would keep my head above water. I once enlisted the services of a psychic to clear my home. Mel came to my house and, after smudging with sage and a Tarot reading, said I would be ‘very, very wealthy’, but that there was a demonic presence in my Somerset farmhouse, and the ghost of a girl in the spare bedroom. She left me with crystals to put under my mattress.
I’m still not wealthy. I no longer own a mattress. My rented home came with a bed, and as I couldn’t afford storage, I gave my two beds away.
I tried, on another occasion, to contact my guardian angel. My reading was thus: ‘There’s a lot of pink on your angel, so there’s plenty of love to come. There is also turquoise, which indicates that the love will come from “across the sea”, from a hot country such as Spain or Turkey. You will be at peace in a lovely home.’
I’m still single. I’m still renting.
To help with the inevitable depression when nothing worked out, I spent a week being psychoanalysed in Keswick. The therapist, Sally, had me draw pictures of myself as a child and pictures of where I want to be in the future.
Instead, I spent most of the time standing outside, sobbing, desperately trying to get a signal to plead with my insolvency lawyer not to let me be made bankrupt.
Oh, and I read numerous self-help books, including Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry and Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder.
Nope. Still unhappy and unfulfilled.
In my most desperate days, such as when my cat was sick, I called an animal communicator and was told: ‘Look to this day for it is light.’ Yeah, I’m sticking to cutting-edge drugs, thanks.
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That’s not to mention my session with a wardrobe shrink – ‘I chose this red jacket for Liz as it will help her appear more assertive’ and ‘these interesting earrings will make Liz seem self-assured’– and my session with the Breath Guru who gave me nothing but a migraine! I even– and this is stupid – tried to win the Lottery. I remember a weekend in Edinburgh when I was cornered into paying for someone’s 60th birthday weekend– Airbnb for three nights for three of us, dinners out, champagne tea at The Dome – and my only hope of being able to pay upon checkout was my numbers coming up on Saturday night. Needless to say, they didn’t.
And so I turned back to astrology, now wanting an in-depth horoscope drawn up so that I could hopefully have something to look forward to or place sandbags against.
Things didn’t get off to a good start when the astrologer asked for details of my birth. I’d asked my mum some years before for the exact time I was born, and her only answer was, ‘I’ve no idea, darling. We didn’t really think about those things.’
The best I could do was send an email to this astrology expert saying we guessed it to be about lunchtime, as Mum remembered soup in there somewhere. In among all the usual stuff about what being a Virgo means, she sent me this…
*I would meet a man who really loves me for who I am and wants nothing. He’s ‘a good guy’ from my past.
*I must not be taken in by a narcissist.
* My second novel will be sold in the US and will be huge! (George Clooney is connected to the film. His PA is called Angel – I see it as a sign!)
At the time, I dismissed the first two points. Not that long out of a divorce, feeling old and bruised, I didn’t want a man. Four years later I got what she prescribed. He really did love me.
At the time I thought I didn’t know a narcissist: someone who thinks only of themselves, has no empathy, and who feeds off others. But looking through my emails, two years later I did indeed receive an email from the solicitor acting for me in a horrible dispute: ‘A word of caution. Do not repay any more than you owe.’ I didn’t listen, a single act that tipped me into homelessness.
The uncanny accuracy of that forecast – the narcissist was the other person in the dispute– prompted me to have a new reading of my birth chart at the beginning of this year by Carolyne Faulkner, life coach and founder of Dynamic Astrology. Talking to me, she could tell that I’m still full of bitterness about what has happened because I was too generous, too trusting. She’s right: doing research for this piece has brought up all the hurt again, so much so that I’ve been having nightmares where I’m back living with the person who caused my downfall.
Carolyne tells me all the usual things, such as that the planets in Leo at my birth show I have a good sense of humour, that I love helping people, but that my moon in Gemini is telling me I must slow down and take time out for me.
I know I need to do this! Many, many therapists have told me to take time to breathe in and out ten times once a day. It’s prophetic that during this new reading, on Zoom, my washing machine is beeping nonstop, demanding I empty it. I’m constantly pulled in a million directions. I tell Carolyne that I currently have 86,000 unread emails in my inbox. That I worked 16 hours the day before. I don’t want to do any more work on myself. I don’t have time to slow down!
Amazingly, she remains calm and supportive. She says that if only I had stopped and listened to my intuition, I would have noticed what the universe, what others might call a red flag, was telling me.
And she’s right. I knew I shouldn’t have left London. I knew I shouldn’t have got married. I should have had boundaries, but I always gave in, relented.
She says she sees a different energy around me now, and that an awful 12-year cycle, due to ‘the south node in Sagittarius, which connects to Saturn’, has come to an end. She tells me that I haven’t even begun to achieve the amazing heights, from seeds planted in 2020, that mean my life won’t be the same at the end of 2022, if only I can let go of the past.
She asks me to do one last thing: to write, on paper, to the people who have hurt me and then burn the letters. I refuse at first, saying I wrote half a million words in columns about the hurt. Narcissists never accept they were in the wrong, so what’s the point?
She says that the act of burning the letters will set me free. I do as she asks.
Do I feel any different? Burning the letters did feel liberating. Come back to me in a year’s time and we will see if she was right.
I think what my 20 years of crisis, my two decades of seeking answers, has taught me is this: the only person who can save me is me. Today, I am paying attention to the third point in the old reading of my chart. I’ve finished my second novel and am pushing to get it out there.
Sometimes, all we need is a shove in the right direction. And to know that someone or something is on our side.
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